Hurricanes beat Sabres

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – This time, Carolina won the second period – and the game.

Ray Whitney had both of his goals in those 20 minutes, Glen Wesley made a key defensive play early in the final period and the Hurricanes beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-2 Monday night to even the Eastern Conference finals.

Frank Kaberle and Justin Williams also scored for Carolina in Game 2, and rookie Cam Ward needed only 16 saves to pick up his ninth victory of the playoffs. The Hurricanes had a 16-4 advantage in shots during the second period, a game after the Sabres led that statistic 13-4.

Whitney redirected a shot from Eric Staal on the power play for his first goal to give Carolina a 2-1 lead, then added another with the teams skating 4-on-4. Matt Cullen dug the puck out of the corner and passed to Whitney between the circles, and his one-timer slipped through goalie Ryan Miller to make it 3-1.

Buffalo nearly got within one goal early in the third period when defenseman Jay McKee sent a slap shot toward the net. It bounced off Ward’s pads and was trickling toward the net when Wesley dived over the goalie to swipe it out of harm’s way.

The play was reviewed in the replay booth, and referee Dan O’Halloran quickly skated away from the phone to signal no goal.

A short time later, Williams skated in and sent a harmless wrist shot toward the net, but Miller somehow missed it with his glove to give Williams his sixth goal of the postseason. The capacity crowd at the RBC Center serenaded Buffalo’s rookie goalie with a chant of “Miller! Miller!” as the Hurricanes celebrated.

That proved to be an important goal when Buffalo captain Chris Drury backhanded a rebound over Ward’s right shoulder during a two-man advantage midway through the final period. It was 4-2 at that point, but the Hurricanes held on to take the best-of-seven series back to Buffalo despite Derek Roy’s power-play goal in the final second.

Carolina’s power play, the best in the NHL during the playoffs despite being shut out in the opener, got off to a great start with goals on the first two opportunities. With right wing Ales Kotalik off for interference, the Hurricanes patiently passed the puck around before it got to Kaberle.

He used a screen from Rod Brind’Amour to beat Miller from right outside the left circle.

Buffalo tied it late in the first period when Thomas Vanek got credit for a goal that appeared to bounce in off Carolina defenseman Mike Commodore. That also came on the man-advantage.

Then came the second 20 minutes and the Hurricanes’ domination. It started early when Doug Weight deftly dragged the puck through the legs of Sabres defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick, but Miller was up to the task when Weight went to the backhand.

The Hurricanes took the lead for good with Jochen Hecht in the penalty box for tripping, with Whitney getting his first goal.

Notes: Buffalo D Teppo Numminen (lower body injury) didn’t dress and Doug Janik took his place in the lineup. It was Janik’s first game with the Sabres since the 2003-04 season. … In the first period, a message on the scoreboard read: “The Carolina Hurricanes have won as many Super Bowls as the Buffalo Bills.” … Wesley got an assist on Whitney’s second goal, his first point of the playoffs. He earned the second star for his efforts.

AP-ES-05-22-06 2220EDT

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